Top priorities for 4 health system CIOs

Health system CIOs are balancing technology priorities with managing transformative teams amid the pandemic to strengthen patient care and coordinate vaccine distribution.

Most IT leaders have multiple priorities today spanning both the IT and human elements of leadership. Here, four CIOs outline their top areas of focus.

Ray Gensinger, MD. CIO of Hospital Sisters Health System (Springfield, Ill.): I and every other CIO in the country would uniformly say we are working on every element of COVID-19 prevention, treatment and vaccination that we possibly can be at this point. We are trying to do everything we can to make sure we have all the tools to optimally treat and diagnose those patients that have been identified with COVID-19. We have done quite a bit to enhance telemedicine and tele-services that are needed both for the management of patients from a direct care perspective as well as simplifying the access patients had for interacting with their family, as we have restricted the number of visitors we have to our facilities. Now that we are in the first phases of our vaccination programs, we are trying to make sure we are building the appropriate analytics tools and have them in place so we are understanding and most efficiently and effectively using the vaccine that is being dispersed to us.

Beyond that, the second item we are really focused on in the short term is really figuring out how to optimize our cost profile inside the IT department. It's been a tough year for everyone, given the changes that have gone on and the fact that many of us have had to be selective and controlling in the amount of elective work that we could do, so we are trying to figure out how to make sure we engage the most effective process we can to contain cost. Part of that is to be able to expand our capabilities. We understand while there are risks and challenges associated with COVID-19, there are also opportunities it is unleashing as far as thinking about new ways to provide care in and around and outside the health system.

We want to make sure we have all the resources available to leverage that as best we can and create as safe of an environment as we can.

Listen to the full Becker's Healthcare Podcast episode featuring Dr. Gensinger here.

Michael Pfeffer, MD. Assistant vice chancellor and CIO of UCLA Health: My priorities are really around supporting the IT team through the pandemic. There has been an incredible amount of work throughout the entire health organization and the IT teams have done a lot of work to enable everything that needs to be done around COVID and caring for patients in addition to all of the operations and projects that are already in the portfolio that need to get done.

In addition, IT organizations in healthcare have been working mostly remotely given COVID-19, so it's getting the teams to deliver, be connected to the mission and be supported through the pandemic. Technology is always a small part of what we do, but people and process is always critical and the incredible talent we have at UCLA Health IT is what enables us to deliver transformative technologies both in the pandemic times as well as in our day to day.

Listen to the full Becker's Healthcare Podcast episode featuring Dr. Pfeffer here.

Michael Elley. CIO of Baptist Health (Little Rock, Ark.): We are like a lot of other organizations; we are going to have a pretty large investment in expanding our telehealth on the inpatient side. We are kicking that off and moving more and more people remote, so [I'm focused on] building the infrastructure around supporting the remote workforce.

There are two components to updating the remote work environment, with the first being around security. If you think about how we as an organization used to operate without a lot of remote workforce, it's like a castle with a lot of doors. When you have all these doors and entry into the large castle, there are all these different security holes and vulnerabilities you want to make sure you tighten up and make it really difficult for the wrong people to get in.

A second component is to put all the soft cultural components in place so that people can function and operate just as well as they can on site remotely. It's not just one device or monitor for people; we need to allow people to still leverage voice and mobile devices and operate with two, three or four monitors, because we want them to be as efficient and effective as they were before.

Listen to the full Becker's Healthcare Podcast episode featuring Mr. Elley here.

Zafar Chaudry, MD. Senior vice president and CIO of Seattle Children's: As is the case for any CIO, I need to keep the lights on and doors open. We made a massive shift due to COVID to remote working and that is going to remain a permanent fixture for the foreseeable future, and my focus is going to be my infrastructure capability to deliver remote services to clinical and non-clinical staff remains up and stable.

Listen to the full Becker's Healthcare Podcast episode featuring Dr. Chaudry here.

More articles on health IT:
What to expect for health system IT teams in 2021
Hospital price transparency rule could challenge IT budgets, systems
The next evolution of EHRs: What to expect in 2021 and beyond

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